CAF 2015: Tidal Wave from The Voice That Is


CAF2015One of two rooms featuring some magnificent loudspeakers from German loudspeaker/electronics maker Tidal Audio, found Doug White of The Voice That Is (out of Philadelphia, PA), showing off my speakers.

Well, no. Not really. I do own a pair of Tidal Contriva Diacera SE loudspeakers (that fell off a truck … pretty much literally, which is why I have them), but these were the new Contriva G2, the replacement for my speakers.

[Sigh]. Replaced … [insert frowny-face here].

The new G2 (starting at $60k/pair in piano black) are smaller and more raked-back than my “old” speakers, but the fit-and-finish is exactly the same. Which is to say, “Best I’ve Ever Seen” (and yes, that includes some infamously expensive loudspeakers coming out of England). There’s this expansive depth to the finish which is startling. I’m not a fan of “glossy”, but this isn’t. This is liquid. As in, “still wet”. Touching it is more than a little obscene. Which is exactly why I do. Heh. I mean, how can you not? And really, there’s just no reason to keep yelling “Stop rubbing your face on my speakers!” All I’m doing is loving them, Doug!

Interesting bit — there’s a switch on the new G2 that can “goose” the bass response a bit, to better tailor it to your room. It works. I liked it. In this room at the Hilton, it was probably a bit too much, but in a larger room (with no ceiling reinforcement, perhaps), I can imagine thinking of that switch as the “fun maker”. Man, these speakers are absolutely lust-inducing. It’s a good thing I didn’t bring a checkbook … though it’d be awesome if I could actually write a check that big.


Starting at the “bottom” (metaphorically speaking), the gear in the room was held together by a Stillpoints rack — and the speakers themselves were sitting on sets of Stillpoints Ultra5’s. The cabling all came from Purist Audio Design. Power distribution came from a massive Silver Circle Tchaik 6.

In the rack, or rather, just in front of it, were a pair of Tidal Audio Impulse monoblock amplifiers ($64,990/pair), finished in their run-of-the-mill deep-pool-of-black-ink-that-would-make-a-piano-look-like-rubbish finish. The Impulse amps are 390wpc (doubling in 4Ω) and 155lbs each. “Big” is a good word, here.

A single-chassis Preos D stereo preamplifier ($32,190) tied the loose bits together (a 3-chassis Prescenio pre sat on a side table — that one costs $78k, with the phonostage). The Preos D is an upgrade over the “old” Preos that I spent some time with last year, and now adds a DAC to that world-beating volume control. This DAC is 24bit/192kHz-capable, but PCM-only — it’s also limited to S/PDIF as an input. No AES/EBU. No USB. Curious, that. But perhaps a Berkeley Alpha Designs USB-Converter would do the trick. For those curious about simplifying their rack, the Preos D also includes a wicked-good phono pre in addition to the DAC, all for the base price.

Feeding the DAC were a pair of Aurender computer audio servers, including the new N10 network based server and the flagship W20.

So, putting aside thoughts of affordability (and ruthlessly squashing wild ideas about raiding college funds), I sat down to let the sound wash me away.

To be fair, I’m a bit critical of this sound. I’m familiar, after all. So, when I say I was gobsmacked, do take that familiarity into consideration. This was incredibly heady stuff. Ethereal … delicate … insightful. And then, on a dime, wildly bombastic. This is why we get into audio, folks. Right here. This is a reference for Absolute Sound.

I want to say that the sound, overall, was rather like an ESL, but with balls. There’s a speed that’s uncanny (very ESL), but still a warmth and inviting sense of ease (still ESL), when paired with a top-to-bottom coherence (ESL!) that actually presents real bass (not very ESL — hence “balls”).

If I had the wallet, rest assured more than a little would be going to collect some of these bits.